IDF Commanders Face Disciplinary Measures Over Qalandiyah Incident

Probe concludes two soldiers who accidentally entered Palestinian refugee camp should not be punished.

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Remnants of the scorched car left behind by two IDF soldiers who accidentally entered the Qalandiyah refugee camp.
Remnants of the scorched car left behind by two IDF soldiers who accidentally entered the Qalandiyah refugee camp. Credit: AFP
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Disciplinary measures will be taken against several commanders in the Israel Defense Forces elite Oketz unit following an incident overnight Monday in which two soldiers traveling in an army vehicle took a wrong turn into the Qalandiyah refugee camp in the West Bank and were attacked by residents. 

The soldiers abandoned the vehicle after it was set on fire. One soldier managed to get to a nearby Jewish settlement while the other hid in the camp until he was rescued by an IDF force. The two soldiers themselves have not been disciplined.

Following an army investigation of the incident in the camp, located north of Jerusalem, chief infantry and paratrooper officer Brig. Gen. Yehuda Fox decided to discipline a number of commanders, including the commander of Oketz, who holds the rank of lieutenant colonel, and the commander of the company involved. Both will receive a notation regarding their conduct in their personnel files and the deputy company commander is being given a probationary sentence that will include a jail term if its terms are violated. The platoon commander is being stripped of his position and sentenced to seven days in military detention. 

The investigation of the incident concluded that the two soldiers who strayed into the refugee camp should not be punished, and actually praised them for their conduct under the circumstances. The initial investigation revealed that the pair, an army driver and squad commander from Oketz, entered the camp by mistake while using the Waze GPS navigational app.  The two separated after their vehicle was attacked in the camp, with the whereabouts of one being unknown for more than an hour. 

As per the military's orders, any soldier traveling in the West Bank must know the route ahead of time. 

Ten members of the security forces were injured, five IDF soldiers and five members of the Border Police, one of whom was moderately wounded during the night-time IDF operation to rescue the soldiers. One Palestinian, who the army said was armed, was killed by IDF fire. 

The two soldiers’ vehicle was attacked with stones and Molotov cocktails, one of which hit the vehicle and set it on fire. The soldiers got out of the vehicle and split up. One hid in a nearby yard while the other proceeded toward the Jewish settlement of Kochav Yaakov. The soldier who remained in the camp had a cellphone, which he used to contact his commanders. He also used his weapon a number of times, firing into the air.

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